Thursday, December 19, 2013


The Golden Age of Comedy (Post 7 of 12)

A Night at the Opera

When the Marx Brothers left Paramount studios and went to MGM in the mid-thirties, their first film at the studio is often considered by many to be their finest.

A Night at the Opera has many of the Brothers' famous moments. The party of the first part dialogue between Groucho and Chico, some of the best scenes between Groucho and Margaret Dumont, the impersonation of the three bearded aviators, the grand opera finale featuring Harpo and Chico in the orchestra pit and, of course, the crowded stateroom scene, perhaps the Marxes most famous single scene. There is also one of the funner musical interludes between Harpo and Chico (Full disclosure: I always enjoy Chico's piano playing more than Harpo's harp playing). We also have perhaps the Marxes best comic foil in the insufferable Herman Gottlieb, played by Sig Ruman.

We also have the bone of contention with many Marxist fans, that being the musical subplot. This one features the tenor played by Allan Jones and soprano played by Kitty Carlisle. Do their scenes get in the way here? A little. But the two actors are likable enough, can sing and the relationship of their characters to the Marx Brothers does move the plot along.

There is also the issue of the extravagant musical numbers that the boys never had at Paramount. The musical interlude on the ship bordered on being a bit much. However, the opera scene itself was an integral part of the plot and very fun to watch. However, I do think these musical numbers began to start being overblown by the time A Day at the Races came along.

But I shouldn't quibble, the Marxes only made a handful of films and just a couple of great ones.

And A Night at the Opera is certainly on the short list.

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